Anyone can benefit from a fresh, skilled perspective and a supportive ear. There are, however, some types of individuals who make more — or at least faster — progress in therapy.
Here are some traits that predict a beneficial outcome in counseling, from my experience working with adults and couples in my private practice. You can still succeed without them, but doing so might take longer.
Clients who are open to new viewpoints gain more from counseling. Although your therapist is there to support you, a good clinician will also bring a new perspective to the table. If you are closed off to new ideas or looking at situations from a new point of view, this will limit your ability to make the most of treatment.
The majority of clients are using counseling to address interpersonal issues of some nature, whether these issues involve an intimate relationship, work problems, friend drama or arguments with family members. Your therapist will be “on your side,” but there will likely be times when another individual’s perspective bears exploration.
If you find it hard to visualize what others might be feeling, this part of therapy could be hard for you. Nonetheless, a skilled therapist can promote the development of empathy, even in those who feel guarded and closed off.
People who are not curious about what makes them tick might struggle during counseling. There needs to be some level of introspection that guides successful therapy. A person who takes everything at face value might not gain as much from counseling as someone who enjoys thinking about the how’s and why’s of their emotional development.
Of course, not all therapy is about plumbing the depths of your early life or upbringing. But if you have zero interest in the impact of your past on your present, insight-oriented therapy is unlikely to appeal to you. Behavioral therapy might be a better fit.
If you’re going to therapy because your partner “made” you or because your mom said she’d pay if you agreed to go, you most likely won’t get everything you can get out of the experience. There needs to be intrinsic motivation to get you through the hard work of therapy. If you aren’t focused on making an effort to get the most you can out of each session, you’ll end up small-talking and evading your way through treatment, which is a waste of your time and money.
If you have a strong desire to work on yourself, therapy can be transformative and incredibly useful. If you want to stay the same and be left alone, it’s unlikely to yield a productive therapeutic outcome.
5. You Like to Talk
This one may seem self-explanatory, but every therapist has worked with clients who don’t like to express themselves verbally. Unfortunately, these clients often end up feeling stuck and struggling in therapy, where the sole mode of interaction is through conversation.
Fortunately there are modes of therapy that are better for less verbal clients, including text therapy, ones based on mindfulness and more structured behaviorally-based approaches.
No matter which points you hit on this list, there is no way to know if therapy will work for you without trying it out. If you have the desire to change, there is a therapist who can help you.
Dr. Samantha Rodman is in private practice in Maryland, and is the founder of DrPsychMom.com. She is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Babble and PsychCentral. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter @DrPsychMom.